They say April showers bring May flowers, but for six specific days each April, Princeton seems to be excused from the meteorological phenomenon. The sun shines bright, and the temperature lingers at just the right level—warm enough for short-sleeves and shorts, cool enough to keep anyone from breaking a sweat. But just as students begin to lay out their towels on the fresh-cut lawns of their placid campus, enter the swarm. The swarm arrives bearing high SAT scores, outsized ambitions, and a stunning inability to place lanyards in their pockets, choosing instead to hang them round their necks, like a fallen flock of proverbial albatross.
In other words, it’s Princeton Preview! Though we joke about President Tilghman’s weather machine and the locust-like presence of prefrosh—there are a lot of them, you have to admit—the Nass is excited to welcome the Class of 2016 to campus. Last weekend, we talked to a handful of specimens from the first batch of fresh-faced prefrosh to check in on how they were enjoying their visits to Princeton. In Part I of our Prefrosh Portraits, we ask them about everything from their childhood dreams to their opinions of the eating clubs; read on down to Parts II and III, where staff writers Dayton Martindale and Jess Welsh delve deeper into the lives of three lucky insects buglings prospective students.
**By Will Mantell and Nass Staff**
The Nass interviewed seven prefrosh on a variety of topics. In this transcription, we shall refer to the prefrosh by their location of origin. A handy list for reference:
NW: Nassau Weekly
AVC: Apple Valley, California
DCA: Davis, California
MNJ: Montclair, New Jersey
RDC: Rockville (outside DC)
RNJ: Rutherford, New Jersey
SFL: Southern Florida
• • • • •
NW: Why Princeton?
SFL: It’s perfect.
RNJ: Best school I got into, and the best aid.
RDC: Whole experience visiting.
NW: What are you looking for at Princeton?
SFL: I want to figure out what to do with my life.
NW: What did you do last night?
RNJ: I went to This Side of Princeton and won a buffalo wing-eating contest.
MNJ: This Side of Princeton, and got a free milkshake at one of the eating clubs.
AVC: I explored campus. I went to This Side of Princeton. Also, my host took me to Murray-Dodge and we got cookies and milk.
NW: What was the best group at This Side of Princeton?
SFL: Fuzzy Dice improv. They played a first mate and captain. “I’ll be your white whale and you can harpoon me.”
NW: What was the worst?
SFL: Tie between Opera and the Triangle kids. I had a really hard time understanding what Triangle was saying. I genuinely couldn’t make out the words. Maybe they were funny, but I didn’t know it.
NW: What was your first impression of people at Princeton?
SFL: I hate the word interesting, but interesting.
RNJ: I have no adjective.
DCA: Passionate, fun loving.
O: There are a disproportionate number of pretty people.
NW: What do you think of your hosts?
O: I love my host.
AVC: She’s awesome. I love her.
DCA: I was too busy trying to find the person holding up my name to have an opinion.
MNJ: He’s really cool. He’s very enthusiastic about physics.
NW: What were your expectations of Princetonians? Any stereotypes?
O: People say everyone on the east coast is rich, preppy, and pretentious, but they’re totally not.
DCA: I guess, I apply that stereotype [of preppiness] more at Harvard than at Princeton. I guess I just thought that people at Princeton were more down to earth and into making friends than getting recognized for research and stuff.
SFL: Even though there’s a J. Crew across the street, when I was walking around, I couldn’t pick out the bajillionaire.
NW: If you had to pick out the bajillionaire in this room, who would you choose?
SFL: Him. [points to Kennett Werner]
NW: What do you know about the eating clubs?
Regarding TI: “Heavy drinking.” “Heavy, scary party scene.”
Regarding Quad: “Nothing goes on there.”
Regarding Terrace: “Smoking. “Dirty hippies.”
Regarding Cannon: “It’s new.”
Regarding Ivy: “F. Scott Fitzgerald.”
Regarding Tower: “Preppyish.”
Regarding Charter: “Engineers.”
Regarding Colonial: “I heard it was a bunch of Asians. My friend took me to dinner there, and I would say this is confirmed.”
Regarding Cottage, Cap, Cloister, Campus: “No idea.” “Never heard of it.”
Regarding the clubs in general: “I’d probably stay in a residential college.”
NW: What do you fear or worry about the most?
AVC: Princeton’s really far away from home and I don’t know anyone on the east coast.
RNJ: Getting put in Forbes.
SFL: I’m afraid that I will stop being the smartest person I know where I’m from to the dumbest person here. I’m also afraid that I’m gonna get swamped with emails from all the stupid things I signed up for today.
MNJ: The linguistics program here isn’t super strong.
NW: What happens if someone comes into your room at night and watches you sleep?
[Editor’s note: There was some conversational context for this that we have since forgotten.]
SFL: I’ll stay away from TI so that shouldn’t happen.
NW: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Do you still want to do that?
RNJ: An astronaut. Not anymore, because astronauts have to be athletic and do a lot of activity.
DCA: A professional pogo player. [Editor’s note: Upon some probing, we discovered that pogo is the West Coast name for the popular playground game we call foursquare.]
RDC: Pilot. I changed my mind because I couldn’t handle the hours. They have a bad sleep cycle.
O: A vet. Then I realized I didn’t like animals.
NW: If you had a pseudonym, what would it be?
AVC: I don’t know. What kind of question is that?
MNJ: I’ve always wanted a Spanish name, so how about Manuel Lopez-Garcia?
NW: Do you have any questions for us?
SFL: Do you have any less embarrassing questions?
**By Dayton Martindale**
I hope to be a professor someday. College students are the future (that’s us, guys!), and if I can play some part in the grooming of future leaders, inspire some kid to change the world, then, well, I’ll be doing something right with my life. With the influx of pre-frosh last weekend, these mentoring instincts took over. These were future college students (the future of the future), and I wanted to know who they would become. Also, the Nassau Weekly had some questions they wanted me to ask a random pre-frosh, so it all worked out rather nicely.
At the continental breakfast Saturday morning, I wandered by the coffee, waiting to swoop in and ask my questions. After two heart-wrenching rejections, I was able to find one bold young man who agreed to give me answers.
DM: Where are you from?
P: San Jose, California.
DM: Why did you get into Princeton?
P: I’m not sure. I think college admissions are a mystery.
DM: Did you take the SAT or the ACT?
DM: Are you a legacy?
DM: Which eating club would you want to join?
P: I don’t know anything about the eating clubs yet.
DM: What did you do last night?
P: I hung out with some new friends I made at Frist.
DM: What are you most worried about coming to Princeton?
P: That I’m underqualified.
DM: How is your host?
P: He’s awesome, and his roommates are awesome.
DM: What would you like to be called?
Without a moment’s hesitation, he answered, “Peter.” I glanced down at his lanyard, and he had an Asian name that I wouldn’t feel confident trying to pronounce. Why Peter? I looked into his eyes and saw his future. Why Peter, indeed.
“Peter” could’ve been the one. The cure to cancer was in his brain the whole time, waiting to be developed, but he never thought to look for it. He thought one of the qualified kids would do it.
His freshman year he went to McGraw once for a MOL 215 problem set. He thought the tutor, a junior, was cute but he didn’t say anything; he simply asked his question and left. He never knew they would have been perfect together, both personally and professionally. Her biological strengths perfectly complemented his, and I am referring to both the revolutionary cancer-fighting duo they could have become and to the sweet, sweet love they could have made, night after night. Peter still got married eventually, and he loved his wife more than he thought he could ever love anybody, and was perfectly happy, but he was wrong, and he never cured cancer.
He graduated Princeton with a 3.84 and went to a top-tier medical school, He got to know an oncologist at the school, and would hang out in his office, shooting the breeze and talking shop. One day the oncologist offered Peter a glimpse at his latest research, but Peter declined, saying, “Sorry, I’ve got too much work to do this week,” and “I probably wouldn’t understand it anyway.” In fact, although Peter may not have understood all of it, the way his brain worked was uniquely suited to reasoning through a major problem the oncologist was having. His input would have broken down the final barrier to the cure, and he would have been celebrated as a hero for all time. People would eat up the story of the unassuming med student who solved cancer. Peter still ended up living a fulfilling life, and saved many as an ER surgeon, but he never knew how many more he could have saved.
But he’ll get a third shot. I’m not sure how, I’m not sure when, and I’m not sure where, but before his death Peter will get yet another opportunity to prevent the spread of one of humanity’s most devastating diseases. What will happen? Will, Peter, like his spider-powered namesake, realize that with great power comes great responsibility, and will he fulfill his potential? Or, like his other, apostolic namesake, will Peter thrice deny the Savior within himself?
The answer, like college admissions, is a mystery.
**III. A Tale of Two Prefrosh**
**By Jess Welsh**
Thursday morning, I was crossing McCosh courtyard when I was approached from both sides by two youths – one who poked his grubby little finger squarely into my bicep and asked where he could find McCosh 20, and the other who convulsed upon hearing me speak and declared erroneously that I had an Australian accent. Thus begins my first encounter with this year’s crop of prefrosh…
SAT or ACT: No comment
Hometown: New Harmony, Indiana
Physical identifiers: Sandals over socks. Flat Midwestern accent.
SAT or ACT: Both! 2300 and 35, respectively.
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Physical identifiers: Orange lanyard.
Prefrosh One and Prefrosh Two, evidently a dynamic duo for the morning, are in search of a lecture on 14th to 18th century literature, which happens to be the class I am heading towards as well. The eagerness of Prefrosh Two and Prefrosh One evaporates as soon as they set foot in the lecture hall. Afflicted with a sudden bout of self-consciousness at the sight of a room full of real live Princeton students, they dither by the doorway for a few seconds before selecting two inconspicuous chairs in the back of the room. My invitation to sit in a better vantage point having been rebuffed, I turn my attention to Professor Gee.
The subject of the lecture is Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, an 18th century satirical essay proposing the sale of young Irish children for food as a means of easing the economic woes of their parents. Given the subject matter, I grow curious as to how Prefrosh Two and Prefrosh One are reacting to all this, and turn around just as Professor Gee announces Swift’s scheme to “have all the children in Ireland killed and eaten.”
To my surprise, Prefrosh Two does not look the least bit offended. Instead, he is smiling vaguely into the distance, and even gives me a cheery wave when he catches me looking at him. More than a little disconcerted, I break eye contact. Make a note about Professor Gee’s comment that “children of the poor can be sold as joints for rich English people to eat.” And turn around again.
Prefrosh Two is still smiling. If anything, his grin has intensified.
By this point, I am seriously debating whether I should contact Admissions about immediately rescinding Prefrosh Two’s application and having him transferred to a youth detention center on account of his sympathy for 18th century cannibals.
But I still want to interview Prefrosh One, so I intercept the pair after class and ask them why they got into Princeton. Prefrosh Two waxes poetic about his proficiency on the double bass, his plans to walk on to the cross-country team and his almost perfect test scores. Prefrosh One is a humble guy, though, and not so comfortable answering this question. His only comment is a passing reference to the fact that he attended a humanities-oriented summer program by the name of TASP, which my research tells me is as prestigious and difficult to get into as any Ivy League school. He is also very mysterious about his test scores, offering only an enigmatic “good” to describe his SAT results, and is tight-lipped about whether or not he likes his host. After a few minutes, Prefrosh One politely requests I detain them no longer, as it is especially urgent that he be on time for the next lecture he wants to attend (a 3-hour graduate seminar on French Jacobinism). I let them go, feeling confident that I had pieced together enough of a character portrait to make a reasonable prediction as to their whereabouts after four years at Princeton:
Prefrosh One – Ditches the sandals over socks for the hooded garb of a high-ranking St. A’s officer. This kid is apparently already well versed in declining to comment, and a secret society should be the perfectly covert environment for him to foster his intellectual talents.
Prefrosh Two — A Supermax cell in the Mercer County Jail, serving a life sentence for cannibalism, insufferably aggressive poking and a host of other unspeakable crimes.